By Ben Cal
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles has remained optimistic for the peace negotiations with two main rebel groups to move forward in 2012, saying the government is ready to face challenges and problems that would crop up.
“As the New Year starts, the opportunities for peace remain positive. Let 2012 be the year of peace,” Deles said in her New Year’s message to the rank-and-file employees of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
“The year 2011 was a roller coaster. We were up many times and we were also down and under many times – but the solution is to always not allow ourselves to stay down,” she added.
The government is in the thick of negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Communist Party of the Philippines/New People’s Army/National Democratic Front (CPP/NPA/NDF) to forge a political settlement to the more than 40 years of guerrilla warfare.
The peace adviser admitted that “the work of peace is not going to be easy” as challenges await peace builders both on the negotiating table and on the ground.
However, Deles said that “in the face of trials, we will persevere because the work that we do is not just for us; it’s for the country. Maybe one of the things to be grateful for, to have experienced all of the trials and all of the challenges last year, is that we know exactly what we’re facing this year.”
“We should be ready to be facing challenges, to be facing problems. Ang importante diyan ay yung matatag tayo (What’s important is we remain strong),” she added.
Deles also stressed the importance of partnerships, pointing out that “one thing we learned last year and practiced is that peace is not just the work of OPAPP. If we thought it was just our work, we know we would not be able to do it alone. We should also be able to rely on our peace partners.”
She expressed the present administration’s continued hope for forging peace agreements early on “so that we will not leave the matter of implementation to the next administration.”
“Let 2012 be the year for peace in our hearts and in the entire country,” Deles said.
It may be recalled that late last year, government panel chair Marvic Leonen challenged the MILF to forge a peace agreement in the first quarter of 2012.
On the other hand, Alexander Padilla, chair of the government’s peace panel negotiating with the CPP/NPA/NDF also called on the communist rebels to return to the negotiating table after months of delay.
Talks with the communist rebel group has been on a stalemate since late last year because of the NDF’s insistence for the release of detained NDF “consultants” before talks could restart which the government panel says is a blatant violation of the agreement signed in Norway and in The Hague for both sides not to impose any precondition for the resumption of the peace negotiations that have dragged for the past 25 years.
But despite the impasse “the door is always open” for the resumption of the peace talks, the government panel has repeatedly said.
Negotiations between the government and the NDF were supposed to resume in Oslo, Norway in October 2011 but the rebel group again demanded for the release of 17 alleged NDF “consultants before talks could resume. But Padilla said this is a violation of the Oslo and The Hague agreement.
It may be recalled that also last year, the government released five NDF consultants as a gesture of good faith and confidence-building in the peace process, but as a consequence one of those freed had gone underground.
On the other hand, the Norwegian government, the third party facilitator, has been shuttling back and forth for the peace panels of both the Philippines and the NDF to resume peace negotiations.
The government’s peace agenda and development framework is to attain a negotiated political settlement of armed conflicts and then address the causes of armed conflict and other issues that affect the peace process.
According to Deles this “requires us to finish the critical aspects of all ongoing peace negotiations and to ensure a firm start of implementation of signed final peace agreements, within the six-year term of P-Noy (President Benigno S. Aquino III).
“We are determined not to pass on unfinished business on the peace front to the next administration,” she added Before 2011 came to a close, the government officially launched PAMANA or Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities) program in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and granted the provincial governments of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mt. Province P207 million as initial funding for livelihood and community projects.
The implementation of PAMANA in CAR is an offshoot of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by the government and the Cordillera People’s Liberation Army-Cordillera Bodong Administration on July 4, 2011 in Malacañang.
In the Visayas, the government earmarked P106-million and P40-million worth of PAMANA funds to the provincial governments of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental in support of the peace process with the Rebolusyonaryong Partidong Manggagawa ng Pilipinas-Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade and other communities affected by situations of armed conflict.